Bernie Karl knew he wanted an ice museum. Karl felt an ice museum would be a great addition to Chena Hot Springs, the resort he owned 50 miles outside of Fairbanks. So in December of 2003, he contracted two experienced ice carvers, Steve and Heather Brice, a husband and wife ice-carving team to build his museum. Three months later, his idea was
completed, and he had his giant, cathedral-like ice museum.
But then summer came.
With the nearly 90-degree Fairbanks summers, the Brices and Karl could do nothing but watch as the giant ice palace melted into a giant ice puddle. Karl was using a refrigeration system on the museum,
but it was expensive, inefficient, and as the rubble and puddles suggested, not sufficient.
“It felt pretty disappointing,” Steve said, on the biggest project of his career at that point. “I had given up on it.”
But Karl hadn’t. In 2004, he came across an absorption chiller, a machine that uses hot water and ammonia to refrigerate. The Brices started to work again in September of 2004, and completed a second ice museum, but this time, with the absorption chiller. When the summer came, the museum stayed. Karl’s idea had worked. He used hot water from the springs to freeze water, and keep his museum on ice.